When writing my PhD thesis, it was essential that the research methodology was coherent as it was the foundation for the entire project. The following sections provide an insight into some elements of my methodology and approach:
Initially, I aimed to discuss the translation of Francophone Senegalese women’s literature in the context of Nicki Hitchcott’s enhanced criteria for discussing cultural identity in an African context (7), gender issues being added to Jean Derive’s categories of sociopolitical, linguistic, geographical and racial concerns (21). Carole Boyce Davies also lists a series of important areas for discussion of Black women’s positions in a variety of societies, which are race, class, gender, sexuality, national origin and ability (4). Whilst I began my research of translation from a cultural perspective under these categories, it soon became clear that some areas were more relevant than others and that my thesis could not be structured in the same way.
Everything in translation always returns to the subject of language, for “…language is an expression both of the culture and the individuality of the speaker, who perceives the world through language” (Snell-Hornby 40). Language could not therefore be a separate chapter, but an integral part of each one. It seemed more appropriate instead to find overriding themes which took into account the issues raised by Derive, Hitchcott and Boyce Davies. In examining my research notes, four key themes came to light: ‘change,’ ‘power,’ ‘hybridity,’ and ‘orality,’ and within these themes I focused on significant cultural and linguistic influences upon literature, whilst introducing a wide range of theories and issues raised by other academics. Then, within each chapter, I set myself a series of research questions based upon my initial objectives.
Within the four chapters, I drew upon examples of writing taken from literature by a number of Senegalese women writers in order to explain how elements of culture influenced their writing and can have a direct impact upon translation strategies. I chose writers who I felt demonstrated the wide range of material available from Senegalese women writers with regards style, genre, date and popularity. There were well-known writers such as Mariama Bâ and Ken Bugul (Mariétou Mbaye Biléoma) and lesser-known authors like Khadi Fall and Ndèye Coumba Mbengue Diakhate. I varied the text types in order to test whether certain translation strategies were more relevant to some genres than others, and chose to analyse excerpts from a selection of poetry collections, novels, a piece of theatre and a short story, as well as anthologised poetry from Annette Mbaye d’Erneville.
The texts dated from Kiné Kirama Fall’s Chant de la Rivière Fraîche written in 1975 to the more recent poetry collection by Mame Seck Mbacké in 2006, entitled Lions de la Téranga. The styles varied greatly from writer to writer with some authors drawing intensely upon traditional culture and local language, such as Sokhna Benga or Fatou Ndiaye Sow. Others, educated for years in the French system and having spent time in France, were more influenced by Western style, such as Aminata Sow Fall. As much of the literature is unavailable in the UK and Europe, and even on the Internet, my travels to Senegal and the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar were fundamental to my studies, although initial research into translation and cultural studies theory, for example, took place much closer to home at Warwick University, the School for Oriental and African Studies in London and Oxford University, which houses a number of key texts by Francophone African women writers.
Throughout my thesis, I analysed common theories and models from Translation Studies such as Vermeer’s skopos theory or Evan-Zohar’s polysystems theory, amongst others. But clearly, as my thesis was a cultural study, the “cultural turn” in Translation Studies (Lefevere); translation in context, translation as rewriting, and as a form of representation made to respond to the demands of a society and culture, formed an integral part of my arguments throughout. I wove together my exploration of translation studies theories with my investigation of the influences of Senegalese culture upon postcolonial literature, and as the thesis was an interdisciplinary study, I also drew upon theories that were more in line with subjects such as social anthropology, gender research, autobiographical studies and comparative literature. My aim was to discuss how translation methodologies and strategies can vary when translating within this genre and perhaps related texts.
The key feature of this thesis was the interviews I conducted in Dakar in 2008 which were used as evidence and insight into the real lives and thinking of Francophone women writers and their attitudes and expectations with regards to translation. Novelist, Sokhna Benga felt that the translator should have “un respect de cette [ma] culture, que l’étranger ou l’étrangère qui a mon texte entre les mains, mon texte traduit, puisse resssentir ce que je ressens” (“a respect for this [my] culture, so that the foreigner, male or female, who is holding my text, my translated text, can feel what I feel”; 10). According to my research, most writers, theorists and translators agreed that translation requires an understanding and identification with the source text writer... my thesis demonstrated how the translator of Senegalese francophemme literature can go about this.
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